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Predators 4, Islanders 3: Cursed building, cursed team

Tolvanen tips a shot with 11.5 seconds remaining to stun the Islanders, who snap a point streak and remain winless at UBS Arena.

Nashville Predators v New York Islanders
I have always hated Nashville.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Islanders scored first, led the game twice, and looked poised to earn their first win at UBS Arena. The Nashville Predators tied it late in the third period, but the Islanders still looked like they would extend their point streak. And then the air let out.

Nashville pressured the Islanders, and Roman Josi sent a point shot that Eeli Tolvanen tipped in with 11.5 seconds remaining.

The point streak is over. The Islanders still haven’t won at UBS Arena. And tonight was arguably the most painful loss they’ve suffered this season. That’s not good for building momentum.

Lineup Notes

Unsurprisingly, Barry Trotz did not change his lineup from Tuesday’s win against the Ottawa Senators, except for his goaltender: Semyon Varlamov got the start over Ilya Sorokin. He matched up against David Rittich for the Predators, as Juuse Saros remained out with a non-COVID-19-related illness.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | NHL Gamecenter | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period

The Islanders had the first really dangerous chance when Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who is heating up, picked off a puck at the Nashville blue line to create a two-on-one with Anthony Beauvillier. They couldn’t connect for a shot, however, but Kyle Palmieri recovered the puck as the Isles changed.

Then, the Mathew Barzal line with Sebastian Aho and Zdeno Chara set up like a power play—like a team regaining its confidence. And Chara put a puck off the mask of David Rittich.

Gaining steam, the Islanders capitalized on their momentum thanks to their makeshift third line. Austin Czarnik won a defensive zone draw to Kieffer Bellows, and Czarnik and Oliver Wahlstrom rushed up the ice for an odd-man rush. Wahlstrom gave Czarnik a centering pass, and Czarnik made no mistake. It was Czarnik’s first NHL goal since October 29, 2019, when he was with the Calgary Flames. This follows his two-assist effort on Tuesday night.

Later in the period, Predators’ fourth-liner Yakov Trenin hit Aho up high, although Aho was crouched, in the Isles’ corner. Chara came over and challenged Trenin and proceeded to pound him. He got the jersey up over Trenin’s head and, to paraphrase Islanders’ MSG play-by-play announcer Brendan Burke, just “fed” him punches. Trenin skated off to the dressing room bloodied.

Chara also went to the room because he got an extra two minutes for “unsportsmanlike”—maybe because he kept punching even when the linesmen intervened—and the Predators got a power play. It was probably for the best, as his knuckles appeared to be cut up when the camera panned to him in the penalty box. The Islanders killed the Nashville power play, but it had a few good chances to score.

The fight seemed to energize the Predators more than the Islanders, though. Nashville tied the game after Aho mishandled a bouncing puck. Nashville cleared the zone with a lob over the Swedish defenseman’s head. He arrived at it at the Islanders’ blue line, but he faced pressure from Ryan Johansen, who picked his pocket. Johansen fed Luke Kunin, who gave it back to Johansen for a tap-in.

Just about a minute later, Nashville took the lead. Too much passing by the Islanders inside the Predators’ zone led to a giveaway. On the ensuing Nashville odd-man rush, Matt Benning took a shot that Varlamov stopped with his pad but kicked out right to Colton Sissons. Noah Dobson, who was arguably at fault on the giveaway, missed canceling out Sissons. The Islanders went into the first intermission down 2-1 despite playing well for most of the period.

Second Period

It was a pretty wild scene in the first couple of minutes. Something of a broken play by the Isles’ top line somehow led to Barzal snapping the puck from just in front of Rittich, who reacted to stop the puck. Going the other way, Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene skated on a two-on-one, but Adam Pelech broke it up.

Trenin again hit Aho questionably. This time, he hit Aho in the numbers with the puck far removed, and this time, he was whistled for interference. Chara again came over to Trenin to say hello, but he settled for the power play, where the Islanders made Trenin pay.

They took a shot off the face-off to create some chaos and worked the puck back out to Barzal. He skated down the wing and sent a centering pass off a skate. The loose puck ended up in Anders Lee’s office, and the captain tied the game back up.

Varlamov robbed Roman Josi, who found some room to skate after an offensive zone face-off about five minutes into the period. The Islanders had some one-and-done chances, as did Nashville, with both teams settling in.

Barzal couldn’t handle a bouncing puck at his blue line and Duchene picked it up. He, Forsberg, and Granlund passed it around, but Pelech lifted Duchene’s stick on what would have been the one-timer. But Nashville continued to turn up the heat. At one point, they trapped Dobson and Andy Greene on the ice for nearly three minutes. That was hairy, but the Islanders escaped unscathed.

There was an interesting development, though, when Beauvillier did not play a shift in the first half of the period. He stepped on halfway through. He was sitting on the bench the whole time, too. And he was among the group that got pinned in the Isles’ zone for Greene and Dobson’s marathon shifts.

In the final quarter of the period, Barzal and company forechecked, allowing Barzal to skate behind the net with the puck. He sneaked a pass through Rittich’s crease for Bellows, but Bellows just missed. Shortly thereafter, Aho bobbled a puck off an offensive zone face-off, leading to a rush chance for Trenin, but Varlamov gloved it.

Though he thought Palmieri sold it, Josi hooked Palmieri to give the Islanders another power play in the final two minutes. Wahlstrom wristed a puck off Rittich’s mask, knocking it off and halting play. But other than that, this power play was much less threatening than the first one and than the Islanders’ power play has looked. 11 seconds remained on the man advantage going into the third.

Third Period

Josi’s penalty expired without consequence, and the teams returned to even strength. Bellows came together with Trenin and Mark Borowiecki, and Borowiecki took Trenin’s stick up high, sending him down the tunnel.

The first five minutes of the period were choppy, but Barzal’s deke turned an innocuous rush into a dangerous, wide-open chance for Lee. On the next rush up ice, Dobson got the puck deep. Ross Johnston retrieved the puck and tapped sent it around the boards until Greene could get it back to Dobson across the blue line. Dobson wristed the puck and scored a goal similar to his game-tying goal against Chicago on Sunday night.

The Preds reapplied pressure, and midway through the third period, Varlamov made a beautiful save on Eeli Tolvanen’s tip of a point shot. Skaters came crashing in around the net as the play was whistled down, Varlamov inadvertently caught Scott Mayfield’s stick on his mask. A minute of gameplay later, Barzal rushed up ice and danced around Dante Fabbro to get a shot away, but he missed the net.

Trenin—of course—tied the game with seven and a half minutes remaining in the third period. Tanner Jeannot beat Greene to a floater in the Islanders’ zone and fired from in close and on a bad angle. But Trenin followed him up and tapped in the rebound.

The face-off was in the Islanders’ zone coming out of the final commercial break, and Nashville won it back to Josi. His blast rang off the post. The Predators kept up the pressure, trapping the Islanders in the zone again, but some miscommunication on their part led to the puck exiting the zone. Then, Bellows and Cal Clutterbuck combined for a couple of dangerous rush chances.

But the awful luck reared its ugly head again, not allowing the Islanders to get away with any lazy plays. Dobson retrieved a dump-in and, rather than look to make a safe pass out of the zone in the dying seconds, just threw it up the wall. With 11.5 seconds left, Tolvanen tipped Josi’s shot from the point past Varlamov to take a 4-3 lead. The Islanders called timeout and pulled Varlamov, but there was no time left to do anything.

Notes and Thoughts

  • I’m going to try to remain optimistic in this section tonight, but that loss stings a lot. It seemed like they had turned a corner this season, and tonight’s play mostly reflected that, but a loss like that can derail progress. I do trust Trotz not to let that happen, though.
  • I can’t tell if Czarnik is running purely on adrenaline or if he has been the energy the bottom six has been missing all along, but he has been a welcome addition to the lineup. Nice to see him get rewarded with a goal.
  • Lee has been heating up again. It seems like he’s starting to feel it.
  • Aho took a beating tonight, and it appeared to get to him a little bit. He has looked good overall, I think, but he looked pretty bad tonight.
  • Do the Islanders have a power play? They have scored on four of their last eleven tries, and they have looked dangerous doing it.
  • Dobson looked a little rough in the first period, and he and Greene were trapped in the Islanders’ half of the ice for a three-minute shift in the second. But he reasserted himself nicely in the third, rounding back into the form he has shown over the last few games. It would have been a good way for the 20-year-old to celebrate his 100th NHL game if he hadn’t failed to clear the puck on the game-ending play.
  • Varlamov still has not won a game this season, so that last-minute loss probably hurts even more.

Up Next

The Islanders remain on Long Island for their next game. The New Jersey Devils will make their first trip to UBS Arena at Belmont Park; it’s a 7:30 p.m. start on Saturday.